What’s brewing in the Pint Size Farm?

Great Lakes Brewing Co. Pint Size Farm at Hale Farm and Village
Great Lakes Brewing Co. Pint Size Farm at Hale Farm and Village.

The gardens at Hale Farm & Village are a beauty to see in the summer, but did you know that Hale Farm’s gardening extends beyond aesthetics to supporting specialty items such as Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale?

Yes, Hale Farm grows flowers and vegetables that are historically accurate to the periods in Ohio history the farm celebrates. But it also forged a partnership with Great Lakes Brewing Co. to help meet local demand for organically grown food that Great Lakes serves at its Brewpub restaurant in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood.

This partnership began in 2007 and is embodied in the Pint Size Farm, a 16,000-square foot plot located behind the Goldsmith Garden.

Great Lakes financially supports WRHS in exchange for use of Hale Farm’s land, water, and greenhouse, while Pint Size Farm is maintained by Great Lakes’ farmer, Christine DeJesus.

Christine does all the labor in the Pint Size Farm and transports the vegetables to the Brewpub twice a week. Her annual harvest includes a small number of hops that are used in small-batch beers served at the restaurant.

From sustainable farming to foodies

When Great Lakes Brewing Co. needed local, organically grown pumpkins for its special release of Pumpkin Ale last fall, it relied on Christine and Hale Farm.

In September 2015, Christine supplied 1,000 pounds of Cinnamon Girl variety pumpkins for the Brewpub and a limited distribution of the ale in 22 ounce bottles. Sherri Wesner, Hale Farm’s farm and horticulture coordinator, also was gave Christine leftover pumpkins from Hale Farm’s harvest festival to take to Great Lakes’ restaurant.

At the Brewpub, the menu designates which meals have vegetables that come from Pint Size Farm. This year, the restaurant will incorporate Pint Size Farm produce into a meatless Monday menu option.

Christine works with Katie Simmons, Great Lakes’ sustainable foods coordinator, to plan which crops to grow each year, how best to showcase them, and how to preserve them for longer use at the Brewpub. For example, Katie has pickled peppers and onions and made horseradish sauce from Pint Size Farm’s produce.

In the past nine years, Christine has supplied Great Lakes Brewpub with over $100,000 worth of non-certified organic food, and she’s done it using the following sustainable farming practices:

  • Crop rotation;Great Lakes Brewing Co. Pint Size Farm at Hale Farm and Village
  • Homemade organic pest and fungus sprays;
  • Companion planting;
  • Predator insects;
  • Pollinator habitat construction; and
  • Row covers and solar mulch.

Besides using homemade pest sprays, Christine takes advantage of natural predators in the area. For example, she has constructed stick piles to house snakes, which then hunt field mice. Also, Pint Size Farm is surrounded by a tall, wired fence to keep out deer.

Great Lakes’ brewery ships 10 tons of spent grain to Hale Farm, which Christine uses as a ground nutrient.

And just as farming historically relied on hand tools, Christine does most of her work in the Pint Size Farm by hand. Her only power tools are a rototiller and weed wacker, and she eagerly demonstrates her organic farming techniques to Hale Farm’s visitors.

From greenhouse to gardens

Much of what’s planted at Hale Farm & Village begins as seed in trays and is housed in Hale Farm’s greenhouse in the spring, except for the crops that can be directly sown in the fields.

The greenhouse, located by the visitors’ parking lot, was built in 2005 and has state-of-the-art heating and cooling systems, according to Hale Farm’s Sherri Wesner.

The greenhouse is not open to the public but it is shared by Hale Farm and Great Lakes Brewing Co. Crown Point Ecology Center has also rented space in the greenhouse in the past but isn’t doing so this year.

Christine starts approximately 5,000 seedlings in the greenhouse. She prefers using the polyculture farming technique of multiple crops in the same space.

Her farming plan this year involves growing a variety of squash, peppers, onions, tomatoes, beets, melons, eggplants, herbs, and greens, such as kale, spinach, lettuce, and leeks.

Christine does much of the sowing and transplanting and care herself, but she does receive some volunteer help from Great Lakes employees, about 6-8 times a year.

Sherri starts sowing seeds in the greenhouse of plants that were grown in the 1800s and transplants them into the gardens in May and June. Sowing times vary each year, and to date Sherri hasn’t started the seedlings for this season yet.

Flax, just one of the many herbs in Herb Garden by the Salt Box House, which is cultivated and maintained every year by the Bath Gamma Garden Club.

She uses heirloom varieties, whenever possible, of the following plants:

  1. Root vegetables for the First Settlement Garden.
  2. Plants used in dyeing wool, such as marigold and flax for the Dye Garden.
  3. Season veggies and herbs for the Kitchen garden.
  4. Perennials for the Goldsmith Garden.
  5. Culinary and medicinal herbs for the Herb Garden by the Salt Box House.

One of the gardens listed, the Herb Garden by the Salt Box House, is cultivated and maintained every year by the Bath Gamma Garden Club.

The other gardens are cared for by just Sherri, and she said there is always a need for more volunteers to help with gardening needs throughout the year.

Anyone interesting in helping with the gardens at Hale Farm can email Sherri swesner@wrhs.org.